Sep. 9, 2020

Peak Season Shipping Outlook Reflects this Year’s Freight Forwarding Volatility

Ready to Get Started?

Flexport makes shipping your cargo transparent, reliable, and affordable

With the traditional peak season in progress, this year’s erratic shipping volumes highlight a freakish pattern of supply, demand, and capacity. Covid-19 has created an unprecedented scenario, featuring an artificial peak, several flat weeks, and, lately, a hint of cautious optimism. As trade presses on, shipping rates and capacity remain in flux.

Shifting Demand

In the second quarter of 2020, demand exploded for airfreight to move Covid-19 medical supplies. Meanwhile, a slew of blank sailings kept ocean rates high when shipping volumes were low.

By July, when back-to-school usually creates a mini-peak season, import volumes reflected lower demand for the usual shopping sprees. The exception was a slight increase in electronics, driven by remote learning. Device companies were able to meet rapidly shifting demand in a tenuous trade environment by relying on diverse suppliers, maintaining the right inventory levels, and, to a certain extent, forecasting on the fly.

Peak Season

Currently, container shipping to the US is on an upswing. Much of this volume is because export from origin has to occur by the end of September for goods to be available for holiday shopping. Timing is compounded by China’s Golden Week holiday closures, from October 1-7 this year.

While true peak-season shipping is underway, those who base forecasts on holidays should note some retailers are stocking more than they expect to sell this year. Covid-19 has compelled a substantial shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. And, retailers want to play it safe with inventory available for either.

Additionally, some volume is a reflection of pent-up demand from when uncertainty chilled consumerism or supply was limited. People can’t socialize indoors or in groups, but they can buy bicycles for outdoor workouts or upgrade home appliances.

Capacity Outlook

Up ahead, a few major product launches—most notably, smartphones, which typically rely on airfreight—are likely to impact overall capacity. Vaccine shipments will take precedence once available, too. The foreseeable future is a carrier’s market, which underscores the need for trusted partnerships and full awareness of how to navigate RFP season.

And while electronics or pharmaceutical companies often have capacity guaranteed in advance, all companies can take cues from this year’s volatility. As trade takes the first steps towards recovery, future rates and capacity can be expected to stay in step with other demand factors, real or artificial.

To better understand the nuances of this year’s peak season, talk to a freight forwarding expert or subscribe to the Freight Market Update.

Share the Article


Ready to Get Started?

Sign up for a Flexport account or ask to see our platform in action.

Get Weekly Insights Into All Things Freight

Sign Up for the Freight Market Update newsletter for the latest market trends you need to know about - delivered right to your inbox.

I agree to the storing and processing of my personal data by Flexport as described in the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Customs brokerage services are provided by Flexport’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Flexport Customs LLC, a licensed customs brokerage with a national permit. International ocean freight forwarding services are provided by Flexport International LLC, a licensed Ocean Transportation Intermediary FMC# 025219NF. U.S. trucking services are provided by Flexport International, LLC, a FMCSA licensed property broker USDOT #2594279 and MC #906604-B. Cargo insurance is underwritten by an authorized insurance company and offered by Flexport affiliates. Insurance coverage is not available in all jurisdictions. See for more cargo insurance information and disclosures. All transactions are subject to Flexport’s standard terms and conditions, available at 沪ICP备16041494号

Copyright © 2021 Flexport Inc.

Terms of Use/Privacy Policy